All About Wool
All About Wool
Wool is so much a part of our DNA that we wear it proudly in our company name! Simple, warm and dependable, wool is a fantastic all-rounder, and there’s plenty of good reasons why it’s been used for winter layers for thousands of years.
There are various types of lovely wool making up the WoolOvers range. Here’s a short profile on each one, so you know exactly what you’re wearing…
Standard pure wool is warm and hardy, making it ideal for delightful cable details and classic Aran patterns. One of the oldest textiles still used today, modern sheep have been selectively bred over countless generations to produce the warmest, comfiest wool possible.
We use sheep’s wool in a huge chunk of our collection, especially with classic styles like Aran and Guernsey jumpers, but we find it’s particularly fitting in thick, chunky garments with truly timeless designs. For those who love a classic, rugged knit to keep them toasty through the winter, 100% wool is always the way to go.
One of the most economically important types of wool, merino is known for its distinctive softness, breathability, and subtle, aesthetic shine. Originating in southern Spain, the merino sheep was brought to Australia by the famous First Fleet of British colonists, where they were bred by a handful of skilled farmers into something resembling the modern merinos that supply our knitwear today.
Compared to the fleeces from other species, merino wool is exceptionally fine, with its staples usually less than one micrometre (one thousandth of a millimetre) in diameter. This is what gives the yarn its wonderfully soft texture.
Merino is also unique in the way that it adapts to your body temperature and the surrounding environment. While all natural fibres are able to absorb and expel moisture, merino is particularly good at it, capable of absorbing around a third of its weight in water and letting it out into the air. This gives it the miraculous ability to keep you dry, comfortable, and cooler when the weather’s hot, yet nice and warm when it’s cold.
Merino wool is also resistant to clinging, unpleasant odours, and doesn’t stain as easily as other fibres, making it ideal for workwear you can depend on all through the week.
Lambswool’s composition is essentially the same as pure wool, with the crucial difference in that it’s taken from a lamb’s first sheering, typically when they’re between six and seven months old. With a finer, longer diameter in the staple, the sheep’s fleece will never be this soft and fine again. While there’s some processing involved, the nature of lambswool means that there’s far less treatment required in taking it from fleece to garment.
All the pure Lambswool sold at WoolOvers is steam cleaned rather than being washed conventionally, a process which uses less water and is better for the environment. While this foregoes the softeners used in the conventional process, we’re sure you’ll find the yarn goes lovely and lax after you wash it at home a few times, and this steam cleaning method is something all manufacturers will adopt sooner or later.
Another ancient wool, alpaca was first cultivated by ancient tribes in the Andes, and later by the Incas, who called it the “yarn of the gods”. The Paracas textiles, dated around 250 BC and currently on display in the British Museum, are thought to contain alpaca wool.
Alpaca is similar in composition to sheep’s wool, but humans have bred alpacas over time to select a finer fibre, resulting in a distinctly soft wool similar to merino. We tend to combine it with sheep’s wool in our jumpers and cardigans, creating knits that are soft, durable, and cosy.
Alpaca wool is also free of lanolin, a fairly common allergen which can cause people to react when wearing other kinds of wool.
Yak’s wool is a criminally underrated natural fibre, but we’re seeing it make a slow but certain debut in western fashion. Native to the Himalayas, yaks are even being put forward as a more environmentally-friendly alternative to cashmere goats, whose swelling population is starting to threaten the mountainous vegetation they graze on.
More and more textile innovators are starting to embrace yak’s wool as a greener, but just as sumptuous alternative to cashmere.
Though it may look a little coarse when it’s actually part of the yak’s coat, the harsh environment they live in has led yaks to evolve with long, fine hairs that can be made into a surprisingly luxurious yarn. We’re sure you’ll notice the subtle softness of yak wool where we’ve blended it to create wonderful, high-quality knits.